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Radical NGOs have attacked the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations raising fears about the investment provisions in the agreement, going so far as to say these could “undermine democracy.” Despite the fact that European countries already have over 1,400 investment agreements, the EU launched a public consultation on the provisions of the proposed TTIP dealing with investment, including measures providing for arbitration to resolve investment disputes known as investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS). Radical NGOs seized upon the consultation as opportunity to amplify their criticism.
The consultation is now closed and the European Commission has now given us an initial look into the universe of responses it received through its request for public comments. More than 99.6% of the nearly 150,000 responses were from individuals. The remaining submissions were from organizations, many of which represent millions of small, medium-sized and large companies.
Radical NGOs will try and claim the consultation as a referendum. However, a closer look at the universe of responses shows the activist groups failed to generate truly widespread concern.
The statistics show us where radical NGOs are best organized but also reveal a stunning lack of broad-based support. Only three of the EU’s 28 member countries generated any sizeable number of responses (the U.K., Austria, and Germany). Most EU member countries barely registered concern.
Even so, a preliminary review of submissions show that these NGOs have been inspired by Rules for Radicals by the late radical organizer Saul Alinsky:
Never Go Outside the Expertise of Your People.
The consultation on investment policy and international arbitration was highly technical in nature, and it’s plain that few of those responding have a working knowledge of the policy questions raised in the consultation. Anyone can learn the “ins and outs” of investment policy, but few have the interest and motivation to read beyond the scare tactics and propaganda of the radical NGOs, which never sought to genuinely educate those they sought to mobilize. When submissions are made public, don’t be surprised by the cookie cutter repetition of “cut and paste” answers.
The Threat is Usually More Terrifying than the Thing Itself.
To listen to the radical NGOs’ commentary on these issues, you’d think the proposed inclusion of investment provisions in the TTIP will usher in the End of Days. Lost in the debate is the fact that approximately 3,000 investment agreements are in force around the globe, and European nations such as Germany and the U.K. have more of them than most anyone else. Instead of a fact-based discussion, the radical NGOs roll out a battery of hypothetical scenarios. The next time someone tells you ISDS is a threat, ask which of the roughly 400 cases that have gone through arbitration over the past four decades has yielded an outcome that stops governments from doing something genuinely in the public interest.
If You Push a Negative Hard Enough, It Will Push through and Become a Positive.
Rather than debate the real policy issues involved in the TTIP, the latest line of attack is over the “secrecy” of the negotiation. Radical NGOs love to riff about the lack of transparency surrounding the negotiation while relishing their outsider status. However, as this consultation has demonstrated, the majority of respondents don’t want their submission made public, nor will they stand beside their comments.
In fact, the radical NGOs know exactly what is being negotiated. Both the United States and the EU have finalized dozens of trade and investment agreements which are available on the web, and these provide a clear real insight into both the U.S. and EU negotiating positions. But the next time a TTIP negotiating text is leaked, you can be sure the same radical NGOs will rehash their complaints about “secrecy.”
At a time when economic growth is slow and jobs creation is needed on both sides of the Atlantic, the TTIP is a vital initiative. As the U.S. Chamber has indicated several times, the EU consultation on investment and ISDS in the TTIP was important, given that the EU itself has only recently assumed responsibility for investment negotiations on behalf of its member states. All citizens should have a chance to make their voices heard.
Many of the respondents may have genuine concerns based on what they have heard from the radical NGOs. However, it is also the duty of every citizen to learn the facts. There will always be fringe voices—some with strong lungs—but decisions affecting growth, jobs, and trade should be made on the basis of facts and evidence, not emotion.